Quail Island Swim
Quail Island is in Christchurch’s Lyttleton Harbour, directly out from our jewel of a beach in a Nor East wind; Corsair Bay. As soon as I entered the water I felt the thrill of open water swimming as you swim “straight” across to Quail island; unless of course you swim like me and realise that you may be swimming to South America! I pop my head up and correct my course taking in the scenery which confirms Yes it is beautiful and Yes I am in the middle of a historic volcanic crater. This swim has a special appeal, beyond the usual token orange marker buoys of open water swimming, it’s just one of the many reasons why the Quail Island Crossing (4km) and Quail Island (8km) Circumnavigation are iconic Christchurch swims. I have recently caught the open water swimming bug and this summer I have now completed four Quail Island swims.
On the 8th of March, RealSwim Adventure guides Dan & Meg took a group of seven of us out for the 8km around Quail island adventure. Earlier in the week Christchurch had been hit reasonably hard by a storm, luckily with the Harbour Masters ‘OK’ we were all on the beach at 8am a little cold, nervous , yet excited and ready to start our swim. After a safety briefing and some ‘dry’ humour from Dan to put everyone at ease, we were ready to swim. The water was noticeably cooler than the Wednesday night Sports Canterbury swim series had been, my mild icecream headache quickly faded and we were off to the left side of the island for a clockwise loop. Once we made it across the harbour it was time for a drink stop – the casual, relaxed pace of the swim means that drinks, lollies, encouragement and humour from the boat are in plentiful supply. As we swum out to the island the wind-blown chop increased slightly and there were patches of cooler water, presumably stirred up from the mid-week storm. Around the back of the island, you swim wide around a buoy marking a reef and then around past a white sandy beach with a grassy hill sloping up to the top of Quail island behind it. The view from the back of the island really could be anywhere in the world; yet this is right in my backyard. After a relaxing swim around the back of the island you can stop for a few good photo opportunities ; facebook link to some of ours : https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.640041069367587.1073741835.196225367082495&type=1 and to soak up the landscape. We round the final edge of Quail Island which is home to a ship wreck, the guides provide a number of entertaining yet unlikely stories as to how they ended up there. The most technical part of the swim is the final leg– slightly more challenging than I anticipated. From Quail Island looking back, Cass Bay & Corsair Bay look very similar making identifying landmarks and sighting most, as is an awareness of the tides so as not to not end up in the marina or once again on track to South America. Once you get closer, the boats in the harbour are recognisable and before you know it you are back inside the familiar 5 knot marker buoys. As you hit the sand of Corsair bay, you know there will be a big high 5 from Dan, more lollies, chocolate or fruit and an opportunity to share your experience with the others in the group.
Before undertaking my first Quail Island swim in December 5km was my longest open water swim; with the scenery and encouragement and without any race pressure, the distance and time passes quickly and if you happen to be swimming with local swim legends Kerry and Sue, you may just be lucky enough to be joined by some local hectors dolphins.
Thank you to Dan & Meg for the coaching tips, encouragement and most importantly the lollies. I will definitely be back for more swimming in Lyttleton Harbour I would recommend these swims to anyone, it is not a race, there is no pressure and you will potentially come away from the expereince having realised you can swim much further than you thought. You may also come away with “attractive” cap & goggle tan lines …. But these like your official ‘Swim around Quail Island’ certificate are just another cool sign you are an open water swimmer.
Thank you to Holly Cassin for the above article. The Quail Island swim is part of our local RealSwim Adventure options and are run on a demand basis http://www.realswimadventures.com/adventure-tours/custom-swim-adventures/